Postdocs in Umeå stick together in Umeå Postdoc Society
The Umeå Postdoc Society is a volunteer organization to represent all postdocs in Umeå – including Umeå University and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SLU. The aim of the society is to attain an attractive environment for postdocs, both on a social and academic level.
Text: Ingrid Söderbergh
Kerstin Seier and Selma Dahmane lead the Umeå Postdoc Society.
The Umeå Postdoc Society was created in the beginning of 2020.
“We are happy about having such a success so far! We already have more than 200 postdoc subscribers across eight departments,” says Selma Dahmane, President of the Umeå Postdoc Society, UPS, and postdoc at the Department of Medical Chemistry and Biophysics at Umeå University.
Kerstin Seier is a postdoc at the Department of Clinical Microbiology at Umeå University and vice-president of the society and vice-chair of the career development office within the society. Together, the two female researchers are passionate about their task of improving the two-year period of being a postdoc.
Being in this work position themselves, they know that doing a postdoc is a weird transitioning phase. One should gain more independence while still being supervised and mentored. At the same time mentoring undergraduate students or trying to get teaching experience. If one wants to stay in academia, one needs to find an edge on its own, experiment a bit and try out new methods or even areas of research while making sure to publish enough to be competitive with others.
“So, a postdoc has to juggle a lot at the same time while often arriving in a new country and a new work environment, adapting in a short time. For PhD students there are more structures in place to help them with those aspects, but postdocs can benefit from such things too,” says Kerstin Seier.
The society was initiated by Magnus Wolf-Watz, Professor at the Chemistry Department and Oliver Billker, Professor and Head of Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden, MIMS. Their idea was to build a similar postdoc community as is often found in big universities.
It all started by recruiting a few postdocs and convincing head of departments at the campus to support this initiative financially.
“Now, we are a team of 15 postdocs from different backgrounds, working in teams for various tasks, such as career development and social seminars as well as popular science events. We count members from eight departments, and we hope many more in the future. Moreover, we are now part of the Swedish National Postdoc Society, which gives us an opportunity to reach out to postdocs across Sweden including postdocs at the large universities in Stockholm, Lund and so on,” says Selma Dahmane.
The main mission of the Umeå Postdoc Society is to promote networking and scientific exchange between all postdocs disregarding their faculty association. In addition, they work closely with an advisory board composed of principal investigators and the “Future Faculty”, in order to provide opportunities for professional growth and development.
“Throughout our initiatives, we want to build a strong Umeå postdoc community around science to enhance the postdoc experience of young researchers in Umeå. This will ultimately help promoting the research environment in Umeå and attracting more young and highly motivated postdocs to the Umeå campus,” says Kerstin Seier.
What activities do you organize in the society?
“At the moment we are focusing on having both social and career development events. The social events are quite tricky due to the covid-19 pandemic but we had already two appreciated online game evenings and are looking into organising more game nights. For the career development, we organised an online seminar about grant writing with a focus for early career researchers together with the Research Support Office (FOS). Recently, we have launched a seminar series that every month will highlight a different career opportunity that postdocs have,” says Selma Dahmane.
Kerstin Seier continues:
“We will also be part of the popular science event ForskarFredag and, on the long run, we would like to organise large events, maybe a postdoc retreat or a conference. We were also thinking about a buddy or mentoring program. For such long-term goals it would be nice to reach more postdocs and maybe gain more active members who like to organise such things”.
Every researcher at the Umeå campus (either Umeå University or SLU) holding a PhD but not yet being a group leader, regardless of its department or external funding agency, is welcome to join the Umeå Postdoc Society.
Umeå Postdoc Society team. From left: Abu Bakar Siddique, Mirjam Hunziker, Mathis Antlauf, Kishore Vishwanathan, Sergio, Kerstin Seier, Sean Bisset, Arnaud Beth, Dario Conca. Missing at the photo are Andreu Vidal Albalat, Apoorv Verma, Dorothee Langenbach, Fouzia Bano, Karim Rafie, Miriam Becker, Sophie Tronnet, and Selma Dahmane.
Comes from: Algeria and France Does research about: How viruses replicate inside the cell using cryo-electron microscopy. Me in 3 words: Sociable. Curious. Precise Interests: Philosophy, sport, painting, and cinema At my bedside: La chute (the fall), Albert Camus Likes to do on a free Sunday: Reading, fika with friends or watch a good movie 3 top things to do in Umeå: Cycling along the river, cross-country skiing, diner at Köksbaren Peculiar thing the Swedes do: The way the word jaha (yaha) is used in every conversation Best Swedish pastry: Semla and kanelbullar – can’t chose between the two Will do after the corona pandemic: Help Kerstin in discovering the bars and restaurants
Short facts about Kerstin:
Comes from: Germany Does research about: Ebola virus glycoprotein Me in 3 words: Compassionate. Reliable. Dog-lover Interests: Books, hiking, and politics At my bedside: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo Likes to do on a free Sunday: Hiking and/or reading 3 top things to do in Umeå: Hike Tavelsjö Tio Toppar, visit Bildmuseet, pick blueberries Peculiar thing the Swedes do: Fermenting fish Best Swedish food: Köttbullar with home-made lingonberry jam Will do after the corona pandemic: Discover restaurants and bars